Monthly Archives: April 2014

New York, 25 April 2014 – Secretary-General’s remarks at Security Council open debate on Sexual Violence in Conflict

THANKS;Secretary General UN

I thank Nigeria for convening this important debate.

Conflict-related sexual violence is an issue of pressing importance.

This grave human rights abuse is as destructive as any bomb or bullet.

It inflicts unimaginable suffering on women and men, girls and boys.

It destroys families and communities and tears the social fabric of nations.

By targeting society’s most vulnerable members, it contributes to enduring poverty and insecurity.

It impedes reconciliation, peace and reconstruction.

That is why this Council has clearly and consistently stated that conflict-related sexual violence is a matter of international peace and security.

Successive resolutions have created a strong global framework for prevention.

Grievous violations still occur too often, but we are beginning to make tangible progress, as the report before you shows.

My Special Representative has examined the progress made by several countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia.

Just a few years ago, rape in these conflicts seemed intractable and inevitable.

The DRC and Somalia are now demonstrating that progress is possible.

The DRC is developing new legal structures to end impunity for perpetrators.

Somalia has shown commitment at the highest level to end sexual violence, including signing a joint communique with the United Nations.

Efforts are now under way to develop an action plan.

The UN Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict is working with Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Guinea, Somalia and South Sudan to strengthen their justice systems.

Every day more countries are building the technical capacity to prevent and redress sexual violence.

The multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral approach of the Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict is driving this progress.

The Special Representative engages in high-level advocacy to generate national ownership, leadership and responsibility.

Once political commitment has been secured, the Team of Experts on Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict works with countries to build their capacity to fight impunity for crimes of sexual violence.

The Team is drawn from the UN Development Programme, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and led by the Office of my Special Representative.

It helps governments address reforms to the military and criminal justice systems and other crucial areas.

With sound legislation, comprehensive prevention and response mechanisms, and enhanced capacity, military and civilian justice systems will be better able to address conflict-related sexual violence promptly and effectively.

Another key element in political and peacekeeping missions has been the deployment of Women Protection Advisers.

Their expertise on human rights, gender analysis, and peace and security is helping to mainstream the prevention of conflict-related sexual violence into peacekeeping and special political missions.

In line with the principle of “Delivering as One”, UN Action against Sexual Violence is an inter-agency network of 13 UN entities, chaired by my Special Representative.

This coordination mechanism ensures that our response avoids duplication, leading to a measured, sustainable and coherent strategy that makes the best use of limited resources and the strengths of each agency.

The goal is to provide services and support for victims and ensure that human rights are at the forefront of all interventions.

This coordinated response, under the leadership of my Special Representative, embodies the spirit of Rights Up Front.

It affirms my vision of a United Nations that works as one to prevent grave human rights violations.

It is imperative that UN actors and political leaders work together to stop rights abuses before they happen.

The renewed commitment of the United Nations to better meet the human rights responsibilities set by Member States through the Rights up Front initiative is central in this regard.

This report illustrates what we can achieve through greater cooperation.

Prevention is our collective responsibility.

Only through coordination and partnership can we succeed in protecting the most vulnerable.

I count on your continued leadership and support as we work together to eliminate sexual violence in conflict.

Thank you for your commitment.

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Giant viruses blur clear line between life-forms

Vaniceseasonal's Blog

Image

Thanks:SHOJI KODAMA, Nikkei senior staff writer

April 17, 2014 12:00 am JST

Pithovirus is over 10 times larger than the influenza virus and rivals the size of some bacteria. (Courtesy of Chantal Abergel, IGS, CNRS-AMU)

TOKYO — Giant viruses discovered over the past decade are redefining the notion of life.

     The latest giant virus, which had been trapped in the Siberian permafrost for 30,000 years, is so big that it can be seen with a regular light microscope and is larger than many types of bacteria.

     Scientists may need to rethink evolution and life-form classification because of the giants. They differ from common viruses in numerous ways.

Frozen surprise

In 2003, scientists identified the Mimivirus, which is 0.75 micron in size, three times bigger than the largest viruses known at the time. It was so large that it was first mistaken for a bacterium. Investigation…

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Giant viruses blur clear line between life-forms

Image

Thanks:SHOJI KODAMA, Nikkei senior staff writer

April 17, 2014 12:00 am JST

Pithovirus is over 10 times larger than the influenza virus and rivals the size of some bacteria. (Courtesy of Chantal Abergel, IGS, CNRS-AMU)

TOKYO — Giant viruses discovered over the past decade are redefining the notion of life.

     The latest giant virus, which had been trapped in the Siberian permafrost for 30,000 years, is so big that it can be seen with a regular light microscope and is larger than many types of bacteria.

     Scientists may need to rethink evolution and life-form classification because of the giants. They differ from common viruses in numerous ways.

Frozen surprise

In 2003, scientists identified the Mimivirus, which is 0.75 micron in size, three times bigger than the largest viruses known at the time. It was so large that it was first mistaken for a bacterium. Investigation under an electron microscope revealed its true identity.

     Last year, another type of large virus was discovered in ocean sediments off the coast of Chile. Called Pandoravirus, these viruses are around 1 micron in length.

     And then came the report of the Pithovirus this March.

     Finding viable viruses in a 30,000-year-old sample of frozen soil from Siberia is news in itself. But the virus that the French scientists discovered is 1.5 microns long and 0.5 micron wide.

     Pithovirus is over 10 times the size of the influenza virus. Also, its oblong shape is unusual, as viruses tend to take on more geometric forms.

      Viruses are not defined as life forms because they cannot synthesize proteins on their own and must parasitize living cells to replicate. But the newly discovered giant viruses are very different.

     Mimivirus has both RNA and DNA, which breaks the presumed rule that viruses only have one or the other. It remains unclear whether this RNA is active when the virus invades cells to replicate, but its mere existence goes against conventional wisdom.

     “The discovery of Mimivirus shattered the definition of viruses,” said Hiroyuki Ogata of the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

     In addition, although Mimiviruses do not have ribosomes, which are the molecular machines used by cells to synthesize proteins, the giant viruses do have a number of genes that code for protein synthesis. “These viruses have over 100 kinds of proteins, so they must have some complex means of making copies,” Ogata said.  

     It is not just size that separates these giant viruses. The Pandoravirus genome, for example, is roughly 2.5 million base pairs long, which is more than that of some small bacteria. Also, parts of the virus are surrounded by lipid molecules, as found with bacteria.

     Science now classifies life forms into three domains: bacteria, archaea (which look like bacteria, but have some fundamental differences) and eukaryotes.

     The giant viruses may require the addition of a fourth domain of life, argue French microbiologist Jean-Michel Claverie and his colleagues who identified Mimivirus and helped find the other giant viruses.

Which came first?

The information gleaned from genome analysis has given support to the theory that viruses may have played a major role in the evolutionary development of eukaryotes, the domain of life that includes fungi, plants and humans.

     Eukaryotic cells have a nucleus, unlike bacteria and archaea. The new line of thinking is that this nucleus evolved from a distant, symbiotic relationship between viruses and archaea. In fact, poxviruses and eukaryotes share a close ancestry of genes that code for enzymes involved in DNA replication.

     “The spate of discoveries of giant viruses further supports the hypothesis,” said theory proponent Masaharu Takemura of the Tokyo University of Science.

     Analysis of the Mimivirus genome, for example, places the viruses on the phylogenetic tree somewhere before the branching of eukaryotes and archaea from their common ancestor.

     The existence of giant viruses blurs the line that until now clearly separated viruses from bacteria and other life forms. At the same time, genetic analysis makes clear that even among the giant viruses, there are major differences in evolutionary ancestry.

     “The giants have triggered a sea change in thinking about the relationship between viruses and living cells,” Takemura said.

     It may even upend the notion that viruses evolved after the origin of cells.

     Whatever the answer, studies of these giant viruses should provide important clues to help solve the riddles of the evolution of life.

 

The sower…

valeriu dg barbu

  trilingual text: english, italian and romanian

The one that cut the umbilical cord of the Man Sky,
The one who embroiled the mirrors, with the purpose of making him look flaunty,
The one that plucked the heart of the Earth and put it on the weighing machine,
The one who admonished the crowd to search its happiness
The one who put the equal sign not only after one plus one, but also between one and between
The one that dispised for the first time a tear
Dibbled into the man the loneliness

a3Il seminatore… 
Chi ha tagliato il cordone ombelicale al Cielo dall’uomo
Chi ha esortato gli specchi di mostrarlo altezzoso
Chi strappò il cuore della terra e lo mise sulla bilancia
Chi ha esortato la folla a cercarsi la felicità
Chi ha messo il segno di parità non solo dopo l’uno più uno, ma anche tra loro…

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Gabriel García Márquez Dies: Famed Colombian Author And Nobel Laureate Dead At 87 From Pneumonia

Vaniceseasonal's Blog

Thanks;Paloma Torres and Maria G. Valdez | Apr 17 2014, 03:59PM EDT

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The Nobel Prize In Literature recipient has passed away at the age of 87 in Mexico City. This is how celebrities are mourning the Colombian author… Reuters

Gabriel García Márquez, famed Colombian journalist, novelist, short story writer and screenwriter has died at the age of 87. He is considered one of the most significant authors of the 20th century. Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1982. He began his career as a journalist while studying law at the National University of Colombia.

Gabriel García Márquez has written many acclaimed non-fiction pieces and short stories. He is best known for his novels including “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “Autumn of the Patriarch” and “Love in the Time of Cholera.” His work introduced his readers to magical realism, which combines facts and fantasy. Other novels he wrote include “Chronicle…

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Gabriel García Márquez Dies: Famed Colombian Author And Nobel Laureate Dead At 87 From Pneumonia

Thanks;Paloma Torres and Maria G. Valdez | Apr 17 2014, 03:59PM EDT

20140418-124301.jpg

The Nobel Prize In Literature recipient has passed away at the age of 87 in Mexico City. This is how celebrities are mourning the Colombian author… Reuters

Gabriel García Márquez, famed Colombian journalist, novelist, short story writer and screenwriter has died at the age of 87. He is considered one of the most significant authors of the 20th century. Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1982. He began his career as a journalist while studying law at the National University of Colombia.

Gabriel García Márquez has written many acclaimed non-fiction pieces and short stories. He is best known for his novels including “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “Autumn of the Patriarch” and “Love in the Time of Cholera.” His work introduced his readers to magical realism, which combines facts and fantasy. Other novels he wrote include “Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” “No One Writes to the Colonel,” “In Evil Hour,” “Of Love and Other Demons” and “News of a Kidnapping” among others.

About 12 years ago, Márquez was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. He battled it successfully and in 2006 was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. His cancer started to spread to his lungs, lymph nodes and liver. The Colombian Nobel laureate was hospitalized on March 31 after suffering from a lung and urinary tract infection. Márquez responded positively to the treatment and was released on Tuesday, April 8 from the National Medical Sciences and Nutrition Institute in Mexico City. Jacqueline Pineda, a spokeswoman for the institute, told reporters that the author’s condition is “delicate due to his age,” but he “will recover at home.”

The writer, affectionately known as “Gabo,” was taken to his home by ambulance in the late afternoon hours. His house was surrounded by journalists and guarded by police, who couldn’t keep up with the reporters’ insistence on snapping a picture of one of the most influential writers of Latin America as he arrived to his residence. García Márquez’s family had to cover him with a bed sheet to prevent film or pictures from being taken. However, a little over a week from his home recovery, Gabo’s health failed him once and for all.

According to Mexican journalist Fernanda Familiar, Gabo’s heart stopped beating. She claims she was authorized by his family to disclose the news of his death. Spanish newspaper El País also reported that Márquez died. He is survived by his wife Mercedes Bercha and his two sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo. Rodrigo is a television and film director and Gonzalo is a graphic designer in Mexico City.

NOW IT’S REALLY SPRING: CHERRY BLOSSOMS ARE AT THEIR PEAK (PHOTOS)

Vaniceseasonal's Blog

Thanks;Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

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The famed cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin in Washington on April. The capital’s display of renowned cherry trees started as a gift from Japan 102 years ago.

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The Washington Monument can be seen from under some of the famed cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin.

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Darlene Yarrington of Fredericksburg, Virginia, has her picture taken with the cherry blossoms.

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The cherry trees blossom along the Tidal Basin.

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Gary Cameron/Reuters

Early emerging cherry blossoms are reflected in the basin. Peak blooms are expected later this week.

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Mark Wilson/Getty

Yoshino Cherry trees are in bloom in front of the U.S. Capitol.

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Gary Cameron/Reuters
Women photograph emerging cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin.

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Mark Wilson/Getty
Tourists inspect the Yoshino Cherry trees blooming in front of the U.S. Capitol.

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Gary Cameron/Reuters

A Buddhist monk photographs emerging cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin.

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NOW IT’S REALLY SPRING: CHERRY BLOSSOMS ARE AT THEIR PEAK (PHOTOS)

Thanks;Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

20140411-071220.jpg

The famed cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin in Washington on April. The capital’s display of renowned cherry trees started as a gift from Japan 102 years ago.

20140411-071429.jpg

The Washington Monument can be seen from under some of the famed cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin.

20140411-071525.jpg

Darlene Yarrington of Fredericksburg, Virginia, has her picture taken with the cherry blossoms.

20140411-071649.jpg

The cherry trees blossom along the Tidal Basin.

20140411-071846.jpg
Gary Cameron/Reuters

Early emerging cherry blossoms are reflected in the basin. Peak blooms are expected later this week.

20140411-071957.jpg
Mark Wilson/Getty

Yoshino Cherry trees are in bloom in front of the U.S. Capitol.

20140411-072344.jpg
Gary Cameron/Reuters
Women photograph emerging cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin.

20140411-072521.jpg

Mark Wilson/Getty
Tourists inspect the Yoshino Cherry trees blooming in front of the U.S. Capitol.

How nations torn apart by atrocity or civil war can stitch themselves together again

Thanks;Apr 5th 2014 | KIGALI

FEW pages of history are as hard to read as those describing Rwanda between April and July in 1994. Working by hand rather than with the industrial methods that the Nazis used to kill Jews, and at more than three times the speed of the Holocaust, militias known asInterahamwe from the ethnic Hutu majority, and others, slaughtered at least 800,000 Tutsis (and Hutu moderates) to remove them from shared land. They raped, tortured and dismembered in hospitals, schools and churches. “The Interahamwe made a habit of killing young Tutsi children, in front of their parents, by first cutting off one arm, then the other,” a UN official in the country recounted afterwards. “They would then gash the neck with a machete to bleed the child slowly to death but, while they were still alive, they would cut off the private parts and throw them at the faces of the terrified parents who would then be murdered with slightly greater dispatch.”

On April 7th Rwandans will mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide sombrely and peacefully. Their Tutsi-led government stands out for its competence. Around 90% of Kenyans and South Africans worry about corruption; in Rwanda the share is 5%. Life expectancy is twice as high as before the genocide. The economy grows year after year at more than 8%. Though Tutsis are the biggest beneficiaries, Hutus are not excluded.

Memories linger. The rainy season, which coincided with the genocide in 1994, is hard, not least since skeletal remains still poke out of the ground after downpours. But Rwanda’s terrible history dominates neither public life nor private conversation as it did even a decade ago.

South Africa, which celebrates the 20th anniversary of its first post-apartheid poll on April 27th, has also moved a long way from its hate-filled past. Race remains a delicate subject. Unemployment is severe and the rate of violent crime sky-high. But the campaign for the general election on May 7th is a display of self-confident democracy in action: a carnival of banners and bombastic prayers, with a record number of parties on the ballot.

Some societies manage to heal the deepest of wounds. As well as the humdrum work of disarming combatants, repatriating refugees and so on, those that succeed also pursue three more ambitious aims: the commemoration of the victims, economic development and (temporarily) the restraint of social divisions.

Commemoration reassures survivors, and all those who doubt the sincerity or durability of peace agreements. Without it, re-establishing intercommunal relations is hard. The bodies of thousands of Tamils killed by Sinhalese forces in 2009 have never been given a decent burial, poisoning Sri Lanka’s politics. Few have been as diligent as the Germans, who created a compound noun, Vergangenheitsbewältigung, which roughly translates as “the struggle to come to terms with the past”. Any lingering anti-Semitism is roundly condemned by politicians and other public figures. After building a Holocaust memorial in Berlin’s government quarter and rebuilding synagogues, Germany now has one of the world’s fastest-growing Jewish communities. “Jews here feel not just welcome, but understood,” says John Feinstein, a transplant from New York.

The chance of a share in new prosperity can help draw warring groups closer—though it is not enough on its own. After decades of hostilities, bush fighters from Renamo and Frelimo, rival factions in Mozambique, struck an on-and-off peace deal in the hope of economic benefits. But repeated promises of a “peace dividend”, with economic growth and a boom in foreign investment, were never enough to bring an end to Sri Lanka’s long civil war.

Most nations that heal well are functioning democracies. Day-to-day negotiations in a legislature chip away at the zero-sum mentality of the battlefield. Northern Ireland’s hard men now sit together at the cabinet table, seemingly with relative ease.

But enforcing new norms to replace those that drove the conflict can require measures that in other circumstances would be illiberal. Until recently, Germany banned reprints of Hitler’s manifesto, “Mein Kampf”. (Internet downloads and its copyright ending changed officials’ minds.) Philosophers talk of the “paradox of tolerance”: that upholding tolerant values may require intolerance of bigots. John Rawls, a liberal American philosopher, argued that keeping an endangered group safe may justify a measure of intolerance.

Rwanda has far overstepped this mark. It is an autocracy, though one run by often reasonable Tutsis with an understandable fear of the génocidaires regaining power. At the last presidential election Paul Kagame, who led the rebel forces that defeated theInterahamwe 20 years ago, received 93% of the vote. He has turned out to be an impressive technocrat—but one who brands his opponents, including some former allies, enemies of the state. South Africa has accused him of sending assassins to kill dissidents living in exile in Johannesburg. Independent parties and media are cowed by the security forces.

For now, this illiberalism coexists with social peace. Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, is one of Africa’s safest cities. But it risks sowing the seeds of a new conflict, either among the Hutu extremists who still populate the forests of Congo across the border to the west, or within the Tutsi camp, once known for its cohesion and discipline but now increasingly divided.

Where a post-conflict country remains intact, so that former mortal enemies are forced to live together, new leaders must choose between justice and reconciliation. South Africa opted for organised leniency; perpetrators who gave accounts of their actions to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission were eligible to apply for an amnesty. Much goodwill flowed from the proceedings. But many bloodied societies reject the very idea. The UN noted in a report that “in Kosovo, the very word ‘reconciliation’ is so charged for the Albanian community that it is simply not used.”

Rwanda initially sought mass prosecutions. At one point 120,000 alleged génocidaires were locked up awaiting trial. The worst villains were judged at an international tribunal, held in Tanzania, but most were eventually sent to home-grown lay tribunals when the national courts could not cope. Punishments were doled out unevenly. By now, many killers have returned home and the government wants to move on, though most Rwandans struggle with the notions of forgiveness and repentance.

Which path to take depends on the nature of the conflict. Rwanda’s genocide was planned by a relatively small group, who then hid or fled, even if others helped carry it out. Blame was easier to apportion than in South Africa, where the pro-apartheid National Party won election after election.

The worst choice is to duck the question. The initial reluctance of elites in former Yugoslav states to send war criminals to international courts left victims fearful that the butchers might return to power. The presence of unrepentant former warlords in Liberia hinders compromise and fans old grievances. The multi-ethnic government that came to power after South Sudan won independence in 2011 promoted neither reconciliation nor atonement. Barring those who failed to admit to the blood on their hands would have signalled the cost of violence. In recent months, as South Sudan’s leaders have fallen out, the sad old fight has resumed.

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The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon passes the 1 million mark

Thanks;UNHCR news
News Stories, 3 April 2014

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Syrian mother gives water to her A Syrian mother gives water to her son in Lebanon, who is desperately ill with cancer. The influx of so many refugees has severely stretched health services.son in Lebanon, who is desperately ill with cancer. The influx of so many refugees has severely stretched health services.

The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon passes the 1 million mark
News Stories, 3 April 2014

© UNHCR/L.Addario
A Syrian mother gives water to her son in Lebanon, who is desperately ill with cancer. The influx of so many refugees has severely stretched health services.
BEIRUT, Lebanon, April 3 (UNHCR) – The number of refugees fleeing from Syria into neighbouring Lebanon passed the 1 million mark today, a bleak milestone exacerbated by rapidly depleting resources and a host community stretched to breaking point.
Just over three years after Syria’s conflict began, Lebanon has become the country with the highest per capita concentration of refugees worldwide, struggling to keep pace with a crisis that shows no signs of slowing. Refugees from Syria now equal almost a quarter of the resident population.
“The influx of a million refugees would be massive in any country. For Lebanon, a small nation beset by internal difficulties, the impact is staggering,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. “The Lebanese people have shown striking generosity, but are struggling to cope. Lebanon hosts the highest concentration of refugees in recent history. We cannot let it shoulder this burden alone.”
The influx is accelerating. In April 2012, there were 18,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon; by April 2013, there were 356,000, and now, in April this year, 1 million. Every day, UNHCR staff in Lebanon register 2,500 new refugees.
The impact on Lebanon has been immense. The country has experienced serious economic shocks due to the conflict in Syria, including a decline in trade, tourism and investment and an increase in public expenditures. Public services are struggling to meet increased demand, with health, education, electricity, and water and sanitation particularly taxed.
The World Bank estimates that the Syria crisis cost Lebanon US$2.5 billion in lost economic activity last year and threatens to push 170,000 Lebanese into poverty by the end of this year. Wages are plummeting, and families are struggling to make ends meet.
Children make up half the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon. The number of school-aged children is now more than 400,000, eclipsing the number of Lebanese children in public schools. These schools have opened their doors to some 100,000 refugees, yet the ability to accept more is severely limited.
Local communities feel the strain of the influx of refugees most directly, with many towns and villages now having more refugees than Lebanese. Across the country, critical infrastructure is stretched to its limits, affecting refugees and Lebanese alike. Sanitation and waste management have been severely weakened, clinics and hospitals are overstretched, and water supplies depleted. Wages are falling due to increased labour supply. There is growing recognition that Lebanon needs long-term development support to weather the crisis.
“International support to government institutions and local communities is at a level that, although slowly increasing, is totally out of proportion with what is needed,” Guterres said. “Support to Lebanon is not only a moral imperative, but it is also badly needed to stop the further erosion of peace and security in this fragile society, and indeed the whole region.”
And while the scale of the humanitarian emergency expands, and the serious consequences to Lebanon mount, the humanitarian appeal for Lebanon is only 13 per cent funded.
Aid agencies struggle to prioritize equally compelling needs and target assistance first and foremost to the most vulnerable of a needy population. Limited humanitarian funding coupled with a steady erosion of refugees own reserves can have dire consequences. A growing number of refugees are unable to afford or to find suitable accommodation and are resorting to insecure dwellings. Some 80,000 urgently need health assistance. More than 650,000 receive monthly food aid to survive.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of children are out of school and the prospect of a better future recedes the longer they remain out of the classroom. “The Syrian children of today, will be the shapers of Syria tomorrow. We must ensure they have the skills to meet the vast challenges they are now consigned to confront in years to come,” said Ninette Kelley, UNHCR’s representative in Lebanon.
The government, UN and partner agencies have mounted an unprecedented response, targeting both refugees and Lebanese host communities. Late last year, they appealed for US$1.89 billion for 2014. Only US$242 million has been received so far.
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